When Frank Bennack got his start in journalism as a classified-advertising salesman in 1950, it was a different world. The newspaper was king, and the publishing industry had deep pockets. As an adman in San Antonio, Bennack couldn’t have anticipated the challenges he’d later face as the CEO of Hearst (the parent company of Esquire), where he thrived in an era of big disruption.
Under Bennack’s leadership of almost three decades, Hearst increased its revenue 14 times, grew its earnings to more than 30 times their original size, launched three cable networks (A&E, History, and Lifetime), and invested in the ESPN family of networks. To mark the publication of Leave Something on the Table, a memoir of an extraordinary life in business, Bennack sat down with us to share insight on building a purposeful as well as profitable career, whether you’re on the executive floor or just starting out.
Culture Is Everything
Office politics has harmed more companies than their most evil competitors. Never have we been at a time when it was more important that leaders put a high priority on culture.
Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” There’s almost nothing else in a company that is as important.
No Sore Losers
The other person doesn’t have to lose for you to win in business. When the chips are down, I always try to make that call in a way that is fair and that recognizes the position of the counterparty, whether it’s an employee, a partner, or whoever it might be. It’s not only polite; it’s good business.
A Higher Calling
Journalism is indispensable to our society. Maybe after the clergy, there is no higher calling. It’s not a walk in the park. But it’s always been a challenge. People thought radio would kill newspapers, that television was going to kill radio, that cable was going to kill all three, but they’re still here. There are going to be a lot of readers of magazines, a lot of readers of newspapers, and a lot of viewers of TV and listeners of radio for a long time to come.
Set the Tone
Optimism and a positive attitude are very powerful, particularly for leaders who have tough jobs. If they don’t approach it with an upbeat attitude, it’s very contagious. I love it when there’s a loud noise in the cafeteria or in the halls. You know that the people who are working on a magazine have had a score of some kind or something good has
happened to them.
Don’t Lose Sleep Over It
People who pride themselves on being able to get by on four or six hours of sleep are kidding themselves. Make it a part of your life. I’m going to rest when it’s time for me to rest. I’m not going to let a too-difficult day get me to the point where I toss and turn all night. I’m going to say, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Out of Office
Once in a while, put down the paper, put down the book, turn off the television, sit in the rocking chair, and think things over. Think, What have I missed? What’s the next most important thing for me to do, not only for my company but for my family and for society? Have I done anything that makes the place better today? If I haven’t, I’d better double up tomorrow.